Notes From the Margins…

2014: Gaza’s Year of Mayhem

  • January 01, 2015
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There are some years when Gramsci’s adage about pessimism of the mind and optimism of the will seems more appropriate than others, and 2014 was a year filled with some pretty awful events, whether it was kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria or a summer in which more migrants drowned in the Mediterranean than ever.

In Ukraine the test of strength between Russia and NATO triggered a vicious new conflict with the potential to turn into something even bigger and nastier.   In Syria there is no end in sight to a war that clearly cannot be won by anyone, but which none of the protagonists or their various backers seem to have serious interest in bringing to an end.

2014 was also a year in which we saw the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq – a stunningly brutal and savage organization whose startling assault on a corrupt and disintegrating Iraqi state was clearly due as much to the weaknesses of its opponents as it was to its own strengths.

These successes were nevertheless used as a pretext for yet another ‘humanitarian’ war, even as an older war came to an ignominious end in Afghanistan, despite the attempts by both the American and British governments to present failure as victory.

When I look back on the mayhem of the last twelve months however, the single most haunting and revolting event remains Israel’s crazed assault on the Gaza Strip.

I know that more people were killed in other conflicts, most notably in Syria and Iraq, but Operation Protective Edge was so shockingly gratuitous and one-sided, so strategically and morally senseless and so steeped in the most grotesque hypocrisy on the part of Israel and the ‘international community’ that it should never be forgotten, even by the standards of our ongoing age of cruelty.

It was a war that the Netanyahu government wanted, and which it concocted through a cynical campaign of lies, deceit and manipulation because it wanted to give the Palestinians a kicking.   It was a war which in the end achieved nothing at all except to inflict even more punishment and devastation on a Palestinian population that has already been pushed to the  limit of its resources.

Sure, Hamas and the other armed groups made the Israeli army pay a high price in soldiers when it actually dared enter Gaza, but there was no serious military equivalence in a campaign that was directed against the whole of Gazan society.

2, 145 people killed in seven weeks; 60,000 homes destroyed and more than 100,000 people made homeless; whole neighborhoods annihilated in an assault in 20,000 tonnes of explosives were fired into one of the most densely-populated regions on earth – all this was carried out in plain sight, in full view of the international media and the Israelis spectators who sat in deck chairs and watched/enjoyed the spectacle.

It was a moral disgrace, which no amount of Israeli ranting about ‘terrorism’ or crocodile tears and handwringing by Israel’s powerful supporters can conceal, and it is probably fitting that the year should come to an end with Israel and the United States colluding in the UN Security Council to overturn yet another Palestinian attempt to bring the Israeli occupation to an end through diplomatic means.

In the eyes of the ‘international community’, it seems, there is nothing that the Palestinians can do to ensure even their most minimal rights, and nothing that Israel will not do to ensure that they never get them.

The huge outpouring of solidarity with Gaza from so many countries shows that many people feel very differently to their governments.       And when I look back on 2014, I will remember that too, because without it the Palestinians really would be on their own.

And then there would be no chance that a people for whom I feel a great deal of admiration and affection will ever find a place on earth where they will no longer be occupied, and where they will no longer have to live under the bombs again.




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  1. patrick

    4th Jan 2015 - 7:06 am

    Thank you Matt for your perceptive analysis/thoughts. Wishing you well and keep those posts coming. Best from Prague, Patrick

    • Matt

      4th Jan 2015 - 1:31 pm

      Thanks very much indeed Patrick. I will try!

  2. Paul

    21st Feb 2015 - 2:38 pm

    Wait… you’re telling me the killing and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, destroying communities and cultural artefacts there since around the time of Christ, is somehow less revolting, and more justifiable than the Israeli assault on Gaza? Make no mistake, I don’t disagree with you on the unjust and oppressive rule under which Palestinians live, but if you dig a little deeper, you will find the overwhelming source of their oppression in fact comes from those who assume to represent and lead them: Hamas. If Hamas were truly concerned for the welfare of their people, they would fight to protect them, and defend them when under attack. Hamas must know that public opinion in the west is overwhelmingly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, so much so, that if they truly desired to establish for their people an orderly and just Palestinian state, that democratically elected Western Governments would have no choice but to put pressure onto Israel until such outcome was achieved, and if such governments refused to support said outcome, they would find that they would not be in government for much longer.
    The current state of Palestinian leadership however, is in no shape to lead. Look up Mosab Hassan Youssef, and hear his first person account of life as a Palestinian under Israeli occupation, and the son of a powerful Hamas leader.

  3. r.h.stansfield

    21st Feb 2015 - 9:50 pm

    Do you know the fate of the quads that were born during the assault on Gaza?

    • Matt

      21st Feb 2015 - 11:01 pm

      I don’t. I didn’t know that story.

  4. Kat

    8th Jul 2015 - 11:28 am

    While I appreciate your eloquent article and comment about Gaza, I disagree with describing the situation of it’s citizens as “war”. No single battle took place, it was a massacre, a regular bombing of civilian population, using sophisticated weapons and deliberately attacking schools and hospitals (no one can deny that with the level of technology Israeli forces are equipped – mainly from US based companies – they could not see they were shooting on public buildings/children playing on the beach/hospitals with hundreds of injured and sick people – the most vulnerable that we should protect!). It is a lie to try to prove otherwise. It is a lie and a bitter grotesque that they dare to say the army that attacks civilians in one of the most densely populated areas in the world is the moral army, and placing a degree on its morality. It is utter disgrace the criminals attacking the neighbouring country are allowed to speak in the US parliament and rant their lies through the US media. Until we start speaking openly and fairly of the massacre of civilians instead of “war”, “accidents”, “incidents”, “assaults”, “air strikes” and discuss why one certain country can continue this genocide of its neighbour nothing is going to change.

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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